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Rehearsals 2016 – The View from San Francisco (Day 4)

by | May 6, 2016 | 2016 Rehearsals, Uncategorized

Rehearsals 2016 – The View from San Francisco (Day 4)

by | May 6, 2016 | 2016 Rehearsals, Uncategorized

Before I start with the last full day of the first rehearsals, I would like to send TVR my gratitude for not only being late with paying their debt, but also being so late not paying it that the rehearsal schedule could not be changed anymore, which meant I only had potentially eight blue stages to deal with today. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It means a lot.

Now that this business is dealt with, it’s time to face the blues:

11. Slovenia:

Is there a more appropriate way to start this day? There is a danger of people mistaking it for a mid-evening interval performance of this year’s Eurovision anthem and taking a bathroom break though, but it’s not like it wouldn’t happen otherwise.

Peek-a-Boo! | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

Peek-a-Boo! | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

After sharing my sincere thanks to TVR, I also want to thank RTV Slovenija for paying such good attention to the only two requests I made after the Slovenian NF: 1. get rid of that silly costume change gimmick, and 2. bring back Peter Poles. It looks like they tried, but got their wires crossed somehow, because they got rid of the gimmick and got a pole. With a man. Who is not Peter Poles.

We're burning red | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

We’re burning red | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting


Speaking of crossed wires: wow, that cleavage.

Back to Poles that are not Peter: I realize some songs need help getting noticed. But that’s no excuse of adding things that contribute absolutely nothing to the value of the performance, no matter how – admittedly – lovely the acrobat on the pole is.

Also confusing: Why does she sing “blue and blue and red is red” but her projected multiple faces behind her are yellow and blue? And why does her backdrop look like the British flag? People are already struggling to place this song as it is.

12. Bulgaria:

Only one song has passed since Australia, but we’re back to the future again, this time visiting a time period that is doesn’t have as much budget.

Great Scott! | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

Great Scott! | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

This time, Poli is not asking where her dress is. Unfortunately it did not get lost during transport. It’s different, I’ll give it that – that’s the phrase you use when you’re not sure what else to say, right? I keep hearing – from blogs and the totally unbiased official Bulgarian Twitter account – that it somehow makes much more sense when you see this on screen with actual camera work and all that, but I wonder if it’s possible for a really unappealing dress to suddenly really look good. I actually saw the choreography for this in a Bulgarian news report, and it looked cool and modern when Poli was wearing her gym clothes, but with this dress it’s a little weird. Nothing wrong with weirdness, but hard to get right.

I’ve never been a fan of dancing people appearing in LED screens instead of actually having real dancing people with the lead singer but that’s what we get, with Poli’s five backing singers only joining her for the last part of the song. Perhaps we can send them to Samra and have Samra send her dance routine Poli’s way? I think it’s a fair trade.

Where we're going, we don't need roads | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

Where we’re going, we don’t need roads | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

The stage has a lot of tolerable static blue, and seem to have some sort of concept that relates to the dress, the choreography and the eventual camera work. So there’s hope, still, even if I should know better by this point of my life than getting emotionally attached to Bulgarian entries.

13. Denmark:

Chocolate ice cream | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

Chocolate ice cream | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

And here we are with the nation that won Eurovision the last two times it was held in Sweden. In Hebrew, We have saying that literally means “third time – Ice cream”, which sounds fair, as this is really the only thing Lighthouse X can realistically expect. Not there’s anything wrong with ice cream, especially the one I am eating right now: it’s triple chocolate and very yummy and probably very fat too, but hey, it’s Eurovision rehearsal week. Calories consumed in rehearsal week don’t count.

Suicidal squirrel | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

Suicidal squirrel | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

Also, Denmark is being Denmark. Like the national final, they have a blue background, except it’s worse. Not like the national final, they don’t have a bazillion recorded backing vocals, so they sound a bit worse, too – ooh, a squirrel! It’s running across the power lines in front of my window, two stories up, being all suicidal! – and at some point apparently end up on the small stage in front of the main stage, still being all Denmark and asking you if you want to be Soldiers of Love. I really don’t think you do, by the way. It does what it does in its safe, predictable, utterly annoying way, and it will probably qualify if only because there’s always something that makes me lose the will to live that does.

14. Ukraine:

Once every few years, along comes a woman, screaming, squeaking or wailing in a variety of vocal techniques, and becomes the center of an annual argument between those who think what she does is stunning and those who search for the nearest emergency exist, desperately seeking shelter from the looming alien invasion that must follow this kind of horrible noise.

2016 | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

2016 | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

This year, for once, I get to be on the side that actually likes it. With this in mind, I do realize some songs really are that divisive, but I also know that I have forgiven (and even started to like) a few songs I absolutely couldn’t stand only because they got their Eurovision performance exactly right.

2016 | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

2016 | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

And for those who don’t already think it is stunning – that is what Jamala is trying to do. It’s not the most accessible song, and it really relies mostly on Jamala’s vocal and emotive abilities, but as far as staging goes, it seems like they have done all the right choices to respect that while supporting the song. The backdrop and lights – at least the ones we got to see – are simple, nuanced, create the right atmosphere and never distract from her. She is one of those singers who have a clear idea of who they are and what their song is, which is probably even more the case when it’s a song that is so personal for her.

15. Norway:

My least favorite thing about the Norwegian staging is that I now can’t even properly make the predictable (but still funny) jokes about their two songs. That’s because if you just watch what they’ve done on mute not only you won’t be able to tell that their entry is made of two songs, you’ll barely notice one.

Oh, it's beautiful, but wait a minute, isn't this...? | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

Oh, it’s beautiful, but wait a minute, isn’t this…? | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

Turns out that the Norwegian strategy to dealing with this particular 2-song criticism was using a staging that is as static as possible, hoping to hypnotize us into believing that nothing weird is happening at any point during the song, most definitely not a tempo change. Here, look at our blue backdrop! It’s all so icy and pretty! We even got rid of our ice cube, because we don’t want to distract you from staring into our pretty blue backdrop. Have you ever seen such a nice blue backdrop? We’re going to have our dancer dance on a small platform at the back, not doing anything important, because that would come in the way of this lovely backdrop that we’ve made just for you!

I thought the old lady dropped it into the ocean in the end | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

I thought the old lady dropped it into the ocean in the end | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

Agnete is still wearing her dress from the national final and it works well contrasting the – did I mention blue already – backdrop, she sounds nice even without her pre recorded vocals, and to be fair the songs are still rather good, so not all is lost, but for future reference, Norway: next time you can’t decide what song to pick and send two, own it!

16. Georgia:

It’s not blue!

Stage of many colors | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

Stage of many colors | © eurovision.tv / Anna Velikova

Well, it does have some blue, but I am not a total antiblueist, I can take a bit of blue as long as other colors are recognized for their contribution to making things prettier and unique and colorful.

DJ, please take me away | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

DJ, please take me away | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

And unique it is. Starting with the track itself, which is a great track for what it wants to be and yet constantly makes me feel like it’s completely out of place here. They have the coolest, most creative prop so far – made of what I think is plasteline, and a colorful, fitting backdrop that actually uses colors we haven’t seen much so far. They also come across as a truly professional, credible band, which goes a long way for this type of song. Will it be enough for anyone hearing this for the first time? No clue, but if Georgia doesn’t make it, it won’t be for lack of trying.

17. Albania:

It’s blue.

Do you suffer from long-term memory loss? | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

Do you suffer from long-term memory loss? | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

And unfortunately for Albania, that still is one of the most positive things I can say about it. Not that I can say negative things, really. There’s just too little going on here for me to be able to find anything to say about this at all. It’s one of those songs and performances that make me look at them and ask the singer – in my head, of course, because it’s not like they can answer me – what exactly do they expect me to do with this. The correct answer is probably change a channel, or paint my toenails blue, if I really want to keep with the theme.

I don't remember... | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

I don’t remember… | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

I saw that some fans were lamenting the version change of this song. I can’t comment since my only memory from the original version was also boring, although it is entirely possible it was boring in a different way. Eneda is clearly a professional but she gives absolutely nothing otherwise – no reason to like her, connect to her or feel anything at all. The backdrop is generic and fairly static, although on the bright side it does change into nice red gold tones later on. Which will help no one when they see this in the recap and try to remember what the hell this song is and why they have no recollection of having watched it.

18. Belgium:

I can’t decide whether being after Albania is good or bad for Belgium. I would like to think that any song will benefit coming after Albania, but on the other hand, what if everyone changed the channel and forgot to come back? What about poor Laura then? What about her dreams?

We’re All In This Together (Graduation Mix) | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

We’re All In This Together (Graduation Mix) | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

Also not working in Laura’s favor: being sent by VRT. There are broadcasters that I trust to get 500% out of their song. I don’t trust VRT to get even 50%. The song itself isn’t that great, and therefore, when it was picked I announced – with great confidence – that no matter what the other songs in its semi will be, what running order it will have and what staging they will come up with, this is the one song I can still be sure won’t qualify.

You might as well stop reading this review right now then, because I’m obviously not to be trusted with anything ever.

Bop to the top | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting

Bop to the top | © eurovision.tv / Andres Putting


But this is qualifying. And apparently the other songs do matter – because this works really nicely in the mix of this semi, Romania’s untimely departure freed up a qualifier spot and quite a few televotes, and SVT gave it the best possible place in the running order. I really hope VRT already sent really nice flowers to the offices of SVT and TVR.

More impressively, the Belgian delegation did leave their fate in the hands of other broadcasters, and made an actual effort to get absolutely everything out of this. The choreography is great fun with both Laura and her backings having the right energy for this, and making the song feel a lot cooler than it actually is. To complete this unexpected round of compliments, this is one of the few times so far the stage looks actively right.

Yes, I don’t know who I am and what I have done with Shi either.

We’re not quite done with first rehearsals yet, but before we get the the first rehearsals of the remaining direct finalists, we will have a very long day of the second rehearsals of the first semi final, including full vidoes. Brace yourselves: Obsession is Coming.

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